Uber eats Uber Eats, embedding it in the main app

Uber’s best hope to beat all its ride sharing and food delivery competitors is that it does both. Through cross-promotion, it can combine activities people might only do a few times per week or month into a product they open daily.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said cryptically on the company’s first earnings call last month that “Suffice it to say we are starting to experiment in ways in which we can upsell our ride customers to Eats deals in a way that — you know, to be plain spoken — isn’t annoying . . . I will tell you that we are very, very early in the stages of exploring the many, many ways in which our Ride business can help continue to build our Eats business and vice versa by the way . . . I don’t want to give away too much.”

But TechCrunch has discovered that specifically, Uber is starting to make a web view of Uber Eats accessible from its main app. A tipster in Boston first clued us in to the feature and now Uber confirms that it’s merging a fully functional web version of Uber Eats into its ride-hailing product. Uber quietly began rolling out a pilot of the merged app in late April. Uber Eats app will remain available as a standalone app.

The move could give Uber a customer acquisition and retention edge on single-product competitors like Lyft or DoorDash, while helping it keep up with multi-product peers like Careem and Bolt (which recently added food delivery), and its biggest global foe Didi from China which just launched food delivery in Uber stronghold Mexico. Combining functionality means Uber’s ride hailing customers could see a promotion for Eats and instantly try it without downloading a new app as their tummy rumbles. It could also get the 50% of Eats customers who don’t ride in Ubers to try it for transportation.

“We’re rolling out a new way to order Eats directly in the Uber app on Android (we’ve already been experimenting on iOS)” an Uber spokesperson tells me. “This cross-promotion gives riders who are new to Eats a seamless way to order a meal via a webview instead of opening up the App Store for download.”

The merged app is now available to all iOS users in cities where Uber doesn’t offer bikes and scooters that already clutter the interface of its car service app such as SF, LA, and NYC. The Android version is out to 17% of riders in Uber Eats’ 500 other markets with the goal of the cross-promotional tool being available to all riders outside of micromobility cities soon.

“We believe our platform model allows us to acquire, engage and retain customers with the cost, as well as efficiency and effectiveness advantage over our rivals, typically monoline competitors” Khosrowshahi said on the earnings call. “What we found is that with Rides and Eats . . . we are seeing early signal where essentially you can have very little if any cannibalization of a Ride and throw a significant amount of potential demand onto the Eats side.”

The CEO also mentioned Uber’s loyalty and subscription programs are vital to cross-promotion. Its Uber Rewards that rolled out in January earns users points for both rides and food orders, and higher reward tiers score users free Eats deliveries that could get them hooked on the convenience. And last month, TechCrunch broke the news of Uber prototyping a $9.99 Uber Eats Pass subscription that offers unlimited free Eats deliveries.

“Really what we are looking to do is significantly increase the percentage of our MAPCs [monthly active platform consumers] that use both products [ride-hailing and Eats] and when we see customers using more than one product, their engagement with the platform more than doubles” Khosrowshahi concluded on the call. “So not only does engagement with Uber increase, but the engagement with our individual products increases as well, so it’s kind of a win, win, win.”

Uber’s market is all about lifetime value. If it can lock users in now, it could earn a fortune off them in the decades to come. That’s why it’s spending so much on marketing and expansion now even if it means racking up earnings losses. But its best (and cheapest) marketing channel is likely cross-promotion through the apps it’s already gotten people to install.

KickSat-2 project launches 105 cracker-sized satellites

Move over, Starlink. SpaceX’s global internet play might have caught the world’s attention with its 60-satellite launch last month, but little did we know that it had already been upstaged — at least in terms of sheer numbers. The KickSat-2 project put 105 tiny “femtosats” into space at once months earlier, the culmination of a years-long project begun by a grad student.

KickSat-2 was the second attempt by Zac Manchester, now a professor at Stanford, to test what he believes is an important piece of the coming new space economy: ultra-tiny satellites.

Sure, the four-inch CubeSat standard is small… and craft like Swarm Technologies’ SpaceBEEs are even smaller. But the satellites tested by Manchester are tiny. We’re talking Triscuit size here — perhaps Wheat Thin, or even Cheez-It.

The KickSat project started back in 2011, when Manchester and his colleagues did a Kickstarter to raise funds for about 300 “Sprite” satellites that would be launched to space and deployed on behalf of backers. It was a success, but unfortunately once launched a glitch caused the satellites to burn up before being deployed. Manchester was undeterred and the project continued.

He worked with Cornell University and NASA Ames to redesign the setup, and as part of that he and collaborator Andy Filo collected a prize for their clever 3D-printed deployment mechanism. The Sprites themselves are relatively simple things: essentially an unshielded bit of PCB with a solar panel, antennas and electronics on board to send and receive signals.

The “mothership” launched in November to the ISS, where it sat for several months awaiting an opportunity to be deployed. That opportunity came on March 17: all 105 Sprites were sprung out into low Earth orbit, where they began communicating with each other and (just barely) to ground stations.

Deployment would have looked like this… kind of. Probably a little slower.

This isn’t the start of a semi-permanent thousands-strong constellation, though — the satellites all burned up a few days later, as planned.

“This was mostly a test of deployment and communication systems for the Sprites,” Manchester explained in an email to TechCrunch. The satellites were testing two different signals: “Specially designed CDMA signals that enable hundreds of Sprites to simultaneously communicate with a single ground station at very long range and with very low power,” and “simpler signals for short-range networking between Sprites in orbit.”

The Cygnus spacecraft with the KickSat-2 CubeSat attached — it’s the little gold thing right by where the docking arm is attached.

This proof of concept is an important one — it seems logical and practical to pack dozens or hundreds of these things into future missions, where they can be released into controlled trajectories providing sensing or communications relay capabilities to other spacecraft. And, of course, as we’ve already seen, the smaller and cheaper the spacecraft, the easier it is for people to access space for any reason: scientific, economic or just for the heck of it.

“We’ve shown that it’s possible for swarms of cheap, tiny satellites to one day carry out tasks now done by larger, costlier satellites, making it affordable for just about anyone to put instruments or experiments into orbit,” Manchester said in a Stanford news release. With launch costs dropping, it might not be long before you’ll be able to take ownership of a Sprite of your own.

VCs bet $12M on Troops, a Slackbot for sales teams

Slack wants to be the new operating system for teams, something it has made clear on more than one occasion, including in its recent S-1 filing. To accomplish that goal, it put together an in-house $80 million venture fund in 2015 to invest in third-party developers building on top of its platform.

Weeks ahead of its direct listing on The New York Stock Exchange, it continues to put that money to work.

Troops is the latest to land additional capital from the enterprise giant. The New York-based startup helps sales teams communicate with a customer relationship management tool plugged directly into Slack. In short, it automates routine sales management activities and creates visibility into important deals through integrations with employee emails and Salesforce.

Troops founder and chief executive officer Dan Reich, who previously co-founded TULA Skincare, told TechCrunch he opted to build a Slackbot rather than create an independent platform because Slack is a rocket ship and he wanted a seat on board: “When you think about where Slack will go in the future, it’s obvious to us that companies all over the world will be using it,” he said.

Troops has raised $12 million in Series B funding in a round led by Aspect Ventures, with participation from the Slack Fund, First Round Capital, Felicis Ventures, Susa Ventures, Chicago Ventures, Hone Capital, InVision founder Clark Valberg and others. The round brings Troops’ total raised to $22 million.

Launched in 2015 by New York tech veterans Reich, Scott Britton and Greg Ratner, the trio weren’t initially sure of Slack’s growth trajectory. It wasn’t until Slack confirmed its intent to support the developer ecosystem with a suite of developer tools and a fund that the team focused its efforts on building a Slackbot.

“People sometimes thought of us, at least in the early days, as a little bit crazy,” Reich said. “But now Slack is the fastest-growing SaaS company ever.”

“We think the biggest opportunity in the [enterprise SaaS] category is going to be tools oriented around the customer-facing employee (CRM), and that’s where we are innovating,” he added.

Troops’ tools are helpful for any customer-facing team, Reich explains. Envoy, WeWork, HubSpot and a few hundred others are monthly paying subscribers of the tool, using it to interact with their CRM in a messaging interface and to receive notifications when a deal has closed. Troops integrates with Salesforce, so employees can use it to search records, schedule automatic reports and celebrate company wins.

Slack, in partnership with a number of venture capital funds, including Accel, Kleiner Perkins and Index, has also deployed capital to a number of other startups, like Lattice, Drafted and Loom.

With Slack’s direct listing afoot, the Troops team is counting on the imminent and long-term growth of the company’s platform.

“We think it’s still early days,” Reich said. “In the future, we see every company using something like Troops to manage their day-to-day.”